Lifetime’s robust 2020 slate of Christmas movies debuted a week before Halloween. And not a moment too soon as the holidays this year are at best, feeling odd. And as we approach turkey day, one of the best films of the schedule—The Christmas Edition—is coming your way this Sunday.
The film stars Carly Hughes as Jackie, a crack reporter-turned editor who has found herself relegated to a demotion in a media takeover of her newspaper. The twist is America’s sweetheart Marie Osmond is cast as Jackie’s nemesis and she dives into this villainous role with all the gusto of someone hell bent on upstaging old Mr. Potter of It’s A Wonderful Life.
Carly Hughes just works in this role. Her character is a whip smart reporter who has risen the newsroom ranks and her work makes this particular film from Lifetime’s slate of Christmas films far more satisfying, with more plot subtext than their biggest feel-good competitor has turned in of late.
Hughes in real life is a multitasker, she’s an philanthropic activist, actor, a great singer and performer and just happens to own every frame she is shot in. This accomplished star is a proper Broadway baby who has taken on a role that will resonate for many who are caught in the current journalism quagmire of seeing outlets fold and livelihoods slip away.
The Christmas Edition takes that premise and also adds a sweet and believable romance to boot. The added enjoyment is the magic of pairing Carly with Marie Osmond, deliciously outfitted as a Louboutin wearing Murdoch-styled uber-boss who is a calculating shark.
Will justice prevail? You can bet your last Nutrisystem shake on it.
The Christmas Edition and the magic of Lantern Grove
The Christmas Edition with Carly Hughes has her paired up in an unlikely cute-meet romance with Finn (country singer and actor Rob Mayes) who has a paper in Lantern Grove, Alaska. He doesn’t want to deal with it anymore, preferring his art glass studio and quasi-bohemian lifestyle.
Since Marie Osmond’s character has let it be known that Carly’s character Jackie is not on her expansion radar, our fearless Jackie catches an advert for this newspaper up for sale in Alaska. Light bulbs go off.
In this transition, she meets the skeleton crew left behind consisting of Aloma Wright (Edna) Emily Alabi (Dolores), two solid actors who deliver the perfect support to Jackie as she makes her way trying to resurrect the local paper and in the process learns to celebrate the simpler joys of life in the town and embraces it all, fully in the moment. Themes of recreation, redemption and rekindled love are woven through workaholic Jackie’s success story.
TV Shows Ace spoke with Carly Hughes about this delightful holiday film you must catch this weekend, and a bit more.
These modern Christmas movies sometimes fall flat for me. But not yours. The Christmas Edition is so analogous to what’s going on in American life right now. The newspaper business is decimated, people are moving out of big cities to find new lives in smaller towns. Your film was much more than a sweet safe Christmas movie to me.
Carly Hughes: Thank you so much. That means everything. It spoke to a lot of things that are going on in our culture right now.
There is chemistry with your love interest played by Rob Mayes, he is a country crooner?
Carly Hughes: He is a country crooner! Oh my gosh. We had chemistry and connection before we even started filming. Because we’re both goofballs, we like to laugh and have fun and in a very lighthearted way off set. So that was going to transfer on to the set.
We are both singers, we both come from that background and he’s been acting for a while as well. So it just made everything seem real when it got to onscreen because we had such great chemistry and developed a fast friendship, as you do whenever you’re filming anything.
Luckily for us, which is not always the case, it was genuine. So we didn’t have to fake anything, which is always nice.
Whoever thought of casting Marie Osmond as this quasi-villain is a genius. What was it like meeting her and being in scene with her? Because she was so into her role…
Carly Hughes: She was so into her role. I mean, in this business, there’s always two degrees of separation. She was hosting The Talk and I know several people producing over there. I had met actually her management team before I had met her like a year prior.
So I have this from a distance connection. And when she got to set, it was like, ‘Oh, Hey girl,’ whenever there is that degree of separation, you all are like, Oh, you’re good people. Because we know the same good people. It was fun.
Most of our scenes are just her and I together. And she kept cracking me up and I was having to hide giggles with her being that villainous character that you said, and to make the cut and I’d be like, [giggles] because she’s like that. I don’t know. It was just so good. She is [playing] this evil woman trying to tell me what to do and knowing I’m going to be like, no, I’m going to do what I want to do.
Another actor that I really enjoyed was Aloma Wright. I think she’s an underutilized character actor and she was the subtle heartbeat in this whole production, talk about working with Aloma…
Carly Hughes: Aloma is someone who I’ve admired from afar and grew up watching. She’s another one, we got to set and she eyeballs me with her Aloma eyes and she’s like, ‘Hey, I’m Aloma.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, Hey girl!’ We’re going to be fine because she reminds me of all of my aunts on my dad’s side. And I said that to her from day one and she said, ‘Really? well, I hope they are nice!’
But she’s has this maternal mother, auntie, quality as I do within my friend group, but she’s generationally older. So it was nice to have that on set and with mixed in with equal comradery in terms of what we were doing, it was just seamless.
She’s a pro and she’s been around forever. I was honored to have scenes with her and learn from her because innately, I learned something from everyone I’m on set with. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I do, and she’s one to watch in person, gliding off the screen and how she said her lines and the way she did it.
We’re face-to-face the majority of the time. So watching those mechanics and seeing how her brain worked was very interesting to me. It is interesting for anyone but I’m getting to witness that up close and personal and it was amazing.
Were you filming this back in August in Southern California?
Carly Hughes: No. We were filming in August in Utah, which is probably identical Southern California, maybe a little hotter.
Normally it cools off later in the day. Doesn’t cool off in Utah later in the day, it just gets hotter. When I had to put on the most layers—I’m not kidding—where Jackie arrives in Alaska and overstuffed and over fluffed? Yeah. It was a hundred degrees.
You’re wearing a turtleneck!
Carly Hughes: I was wearing a cable knit turtleneck suit, a puffy coat, a wool hat, scarf gloves, and fur-lined ski boots. And then I was like, ‘I’m going to look so good when this is over! [from sweating].
Okay. Season five of American Housewife, is back, is Angela back?
Carly Hughes: Well, I’m only I’m… I’m going to say one scene. I’m only in the first episode of season five and then I’m no longer going to be with the show. We get to go and go on some adventures.
Okay. Well, what adventures are you currently planned?
Carly Hughes: I mean, have you got anything in the works? I mean, this is such a strange time. I mean…talking about that. It’s very hard. It’s very hard because initially nothing was open, nothing was auditioning and nothing was filming.
So now that our union has gotten the lock down and the COVID, regulations to follow so things can follow suit and more things can open, which is great, but it’s still tricky and it’s per production on how you navigate that.
And you have to hope if you’re filming in LA, you can quarantine, people live in LA, so you don’t know what they’re doing when they leave, which can cause issues when you’re being tested every 72 hours. And if someone comes up positive, then that puts a dent in the production.
So there’s lots of mechanics and wheels that go into it. Right now my goal is just auditioning and finding the right project because I’m so excited to find something that I’m passionate about and possibly a drama, being specific with that so that when it comes along, I’m ready. You know what I mean?
I’m still quarantining. I’m not going around anyone. So when my test comes, it will be negative and we can start filming. Because I feel like that’s all you’ve been focused on now is the work, getting it. And then being prepared for whatever is to come. Like the movie, they had to test me before I left my house, as I landed. And then every time thereafter, so luckily I’ve been sitting on my porch since March. And then this is the first time I had interacted with people, which was a little anxiety ridden for me. It was August. So I was like, okay, here we go.
But because I had been following the rules, I was able to test negative and go film a movie, because it’s not like any other job where if you test positive, you take two weeks off until you’re negative.
if you test positive for this gig, you probably get fired because they need to start filming and they’ll hire the person who’s negative. So it’s really changing how it’s being done.
Yes. Anxiety producing. I’m sure. saw your wonderful Instagram posts with your mom. How is she?
Carly Hughes: She’s a little warrior princess. She doesn’t even know how much of a warrior she is because, for my mom, you take characteristics from each parent. I’ve always been extremely independent and doing things on my own. And my mom, while she was a single mother forever and independent in those ways, she really came into her own later in life.
And she realized her strengths and what she’s capable of later in life and…breast cancer sucks. But she came out of it, graciously, and found a new part of herself from it.
And so, you always have to find a positive from anything negative and for her… I think that’s what it was. She really realized what she was capable of. And not just with cancer, but because of cancer. It really changes your mindset. So it was nice to be a witness. I watched her come into that part of her life.
Yes. Now I read that you were from, St. Louis and Maryland. Is your mom in Maryland or is she in in Missouri?
Carly Hughes: She is in Columbia, Maryland. My dad, my whole family is from St. Louis. My mom is one of eight [children]. My dad’s one of seven. They’re all from St. Louis. My dad’s side is still there, and my mom’s side is all moved away.
I know you must have missed traveling and you must miss your family. That must be the hardest part.
Carly Hughes: It’s so hard. Because my mom and I are close and we’ve been close my whole life. I’m a mama bear to my mom and I wouldn’t change that for the world. And so not being able to be near her during this pandemic… And then during the breakout of an epidemic on top of a pandemic and really want to be by her and make sure she’s following the rules has been super stressful.
But that aside, I haven’t seen my mom forever and next month, it’ll be like in a year. That is unheard of for both of us, but because of the breast cancer, she’s immunocompromised, so she can’t fly and she can’t be put and she’s high risk and I have asthma, so I’m immunocompromised.
It’s not like we can get on a plane and neither one of us is driving across the country. So, we’ve just been Facetiming a lot, uh, which is also nothing new because she does that all the time and regular times.
But this movie, actually made it,…I don’t know, it just came at the right time. It made it great because one of the things my mom and I do every year is watch all of these Lifetime Christmas movies. So it’ll be really great being that we can’t be around each other and near each other this year, but she will be able to see me at Christmas in a Christmas movie on Lifetime, which is something we do together.
So it made it very special. It put a little Christmas sparkle to this year that has been like a giant crap show, for real.
Who is your favorite food network star. And what would you say to them to pitch your own show on food network or be involved in their show?
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Carly Hughes: Ooooh Honey, that is a good question because I watch Food Network like it’s cartoons. So it would be anyone. My favorite? I really do love several. I love Michael Simon. I love Bobby Flay. I think I’d pitch to those two.
Bobby’s very much ‘by the book’ and Chef Simon likes to play a little bit. I totally would pitch to one of them, a comfort show, meaning like not comfort foods, but foods that bring you comfort and the difference being that comfort food is stuff that you have. It’s not always your stuff you grew up with.
It’s not always the best thing. Like fried chicken or Mac and cheese, but the food that actually brings you comfort which is different for everyone.
So, for me, it would probably be lobster, but for someone else, it maybe their mom’s home cooked whatever, but for someone else, it will be their favorite that they have when they travel.
So it would be about making those recipes accessible to the everyday person and realizing that anyone can cook, you have the basic recipe, and it may not be identical to what you have, but it will be similar enough that it will bring you that same amount of joy.
The Christmas Edition airs Sunday, November 15 at 8/7c on Lifetime.